An examination of whether asteroid defense systems could detect a potentially risky near-Earth asteroid on its nearest approach successfully “rediscovered” the notorious asteroid 99942 Apophis, which will make a tight encounter with our earth in 2029.
Regarding this asteroid defense exercise, all prior data on Apophis were rendered inaccessible. The astronomers had to begin afresh during the asteroid’s tight approach, which started in December 2020 and ended in March 2021. The question stands will Apophis slip through the net, or could our system of sky surveys discover it?
Several asteroid-hunting studies, which routinely survey the sky looking for potentially hazardous asteroids, were entangled in the project, and it included over 100 scientists from 18 countries.
The project “stress-tested the entire planetary defense response chain, from initial detection, to orbit determination, to measuring the asteroid’s physical characteristics and even determining if and where it might hit Earth,” Vishnu Reddy, who is an associate professor at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory who oversaw the campaign, announced in a NASA statement.
By December. 23rd, 2020, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, which is the compiling body for all asteroid and comet remarks, had enough data to declare the rediscovery of Apophis as a fresh asteroid but not sufficient data to rule out a consequence.
“Even though we knew that, in reality, Apophis was not impacting Earth in 2029 starting from square one … there were large uncertainties in the object’s orbit that theoretically allowed an impact that year,” Davide Farnocchia, who is a navigation engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, declared in the statement.